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February 1st, 2017

YELLOWBEARD (1983) **

There were a lot of pirate movies in the early ‘80s. I’m not sure why there were so many of them, because audiences didn’t exactly flock to them. This spoof of the genre certainly had a lot of promise. Not only does it feature three alums from Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Eric Idle), but it also boasts three co-stars from Young Frankenstein (Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, and Marty Feldman). Not only that; but Cheech and Chong show up too. Despite the cast, Yellowbeard struggles to find laughs.

Chapman plays the title character. He is sent to prison for twenty years and when he gets out; he goes searching for his hidden treasure. His prostitute wife (Kahn) forces him to take his book smart son (Martin Hewitt) with him, mostly because she tattooed the map to the treasure on his head when he was a baby. Yellowbeard agrees and soon finds himself pursued by government officials and rival pirates who want to get the gold for themselves.

When it comes to rape jokes, Yellowbeard has to be the all-time world champion. Just about every scene has one. Sure, it’s not politically correct, but seeing that raping and plundering is a pirate’s stock in trade, I guess it makes sense.

Chapman does what he can with the role, which is act as crazy and disgusting as possible. Kahn gets a few laughs too, thanks to her natural charm, but most of the cast go overboard “trying” to be funny (especially Cheech and Chong). James Mason is pretty funny though, mostly because he’s playing it straight as an evil captain. There’s also a random David Bowie cameo too.

Although the script was scattershot I still think it could’ve worked in the hands of the right director. While he handles the action well enough, TV vet Mel (Legendary) Damski just doesn’t seem to have the timing down when it comes to the comedy scenes. One could only imagine what the final product would’ve looked like if someone like Terry Gilliam could’ve been at the helm. As it is, Yellowbeard has its share of chuckles, but most of the time, it’s lost at sea.

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